From my film reviews, you can probably tell that I love visual aids to help tell a story. As juvenile as it sounds, I love books that have pictures which describe the action. When Kim asked me to begin reviewing graphic novels, I figured I’d be killing two birds with one stone; I’d be reading and increasing my knowledge, while learning more about history and other subjects. For my first review I went with a graphic novel that spoke about a period in history which I knew little about, the Iranian Revolution. The novel is Persepolis: the autobiography of Marjane Satrapi, a woman who was born and raised in Iran during the time of the Iranian Revolution and the subsequent war between Iran and neighboring Iraq. Through trials and tribulation that she was forced to endure, Satrapi is able to tell a story that is funny, heartbreaking, and historically filled with facts.
Young Marjane begins her story with how her life started in Iran. She always felt that she was special, that someday she would be the next prophet sent from God to make a change. As a young girl, she was always rebellious and curious by nature. Due to the Shah being overthrown in 1979, ten-year old Marjane is forced to grow up much more quickly than kids in America might have because of her exposure to rebellion. The government that was put in place of the Shah was even stricter than what was present before, making life in Iran unbearable. Women were forced to wear veils over their heads and schools were segregated by gender, a practice which young Marjane did not believe in nor understand. Whilst in the middle of an eight year war with Iraq, Marjane is given the opportunity to leave the country by herself and go live in Europe safely. Upon leaving Iran, she realizes that the world outside is very different, and finds herself sticking out like a sore thumb, unused to the European culture. The second portion of the novel chronicles her adventures in Europe and her eventual return to Iran after four years.
While this novel was a roller coaster of emotions and the overall tone was very serious and deep, there was a lot of heart to it as well. At the heart of this novel is a coming of age story, something very traditional in a literary sense but different in its execution. With the use of pictures (as it’s a graphic novel), the reader gets to not only see the changes of Marjane physically, but also mentally. As the character transitions through different phases in life, the pictures change as well. I am not sure if this was done intentionally, but as she experiences more and grows up, she is drawn more adult-like and less kid-like. The drawings in the beginning reminded me of how a little kid might imagine him or herself as a super hero, floating in the clouds and making a difference, but the pictures as she witnesses and learns more about the world were really gritty and very realistic of her experiences.
Mistakenly I viewed the novel as two separate portions rather than one long novel, but despite this the novel still flowed really well. The different phases in Marjane’s life flowed right into each other and every story she told built upon the last one. She covers a lot of topics in the novel, from war and destruction to first love and losing her virginity; writing in a way that made all of the topics very accessible. Satrapi was able to describe her story in a fascinating way and made the reader want to know how her journey was going to end. She made the reader feel that rather than reading all this information, he or she is listening to someone tell the story.
I really enjoyed Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographic tale of how she grew up and the trials and tribulation she experienced in both Iran and Europe. She was able to pull the me in from the very beginning and kept my attention to the very end. I was so captivated by her storytelling that I couldn’t put the novel down! I really found myself appreciating what I have, and how lucky I am to be able to live in a country where I can express myself.
5 out of 5 Stars